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Judge raises dignity point

New Delhi, Nov. 28: The Supreme Court has agreed to examine a question of law on whether the higher judiciary can pass adverse remarks against subordinate judicial officers for acts done or orders passed in judicial capacity.

The court decided to take up the matter after a district judge complained that his “future… (was) at stake” because of observations made by Allahabad High Court.

Justices R.M. Lodha and A.R. Dave issued notice to the Uttar Pradesh government and sought a response within 10 weeks on the special leave petition filed by additional district judge Ram Achal Yadav.

The high court had shifted Yadav from his post of special judge of the motor accidents claims tribunal, Faizabad, after he withheld a compensation amount awarded to an accident victim.

Yadav had in 2010 awarded Rs 66,788 to the victim, Shiv Dhani Mishra, and directed the Oriental Insurance Company to deposit the amount and recover it from the offending vehicle’s owner.

Not satisfied, the victim had filed an appeal in the high court seeking enhanced compensation. He also filed an application before Yadav for release of the amount already awarded. Yadav refused, saying his plea could not be considered as an appeal was pending in the high court.

The victim moved the high court, which faulted Yadav. “The court completely fails to understand… how such an order can be passed by an ADJ,” the court said, adding that even if the appeal for enhanced damages was dismissed, the appellant would “still” be “entitled” to the amount already awarded and “which has been deposited by the insurance company”.

“Accordingly, this release application is allowed…” the court said.

The court then “further directed” that Yadav “shall not be given the jurisdiction of motor accidents claims tribunal in future and a copy of this order shall be placed in his service book”.

In his petition before the apex court, Yadav said the high court order had raised an important question: whether orders passed by judicial officers in their official capacity had immunity from unwarranted remarks in violation of laws dealing with protection of judges.

He cited an apex court ruling to make the point that superior court judges needed to maintain restraint, however strongly they might feel about an order, because adverse remarks were “subversive” of the judicial authority of the subordinate judge concerned and could have a demoralising effect.